Study: Down Economy Sparks Rise in Workplace Theft
The current economic downturn has led to an increase in workplace theft, especially in large organizations, according to a recent Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) study.
The study found that 27 percent of respondents in large companies (those with 10,000 or more employees) said crime in the workplace has risen during the current economic crisis, while 15 percent of all respondents, regardless of company size, reported the same.
Of those companies that feel today’s economic situation has led to an increase in theft, almost a quarter (24 percent) of all respondents, and 31 percent of companies with 10,000 or more workers, said they have noticed a rise in the theft of company-owned items such as office supplies, products they produce, electronic equipment and food items since the economy went sour.
Undoubtedly, the more troubling type of internal theft is employee-related monetary theft (such as the padding of expense reports, the disappearance of cash and other financially related crimes), which was reported as increasing during the downturn by 18 percent of overall respondents and by 22 percent of large companies.
More subtle “time theft” issues, such as employees using company property for personal use and “Web surfing” of non-company related Web sites, was cited as being a growing problem by 24 percent of all companies in the down economy, but just 13 percent of large organizations consider it a problem.
From an external perspective, in theft issues involving people who do not work at the company, the picture is much the same. A quarter of all respondents and 30 percent of large companies reported a rise in white-collar crimes committed by outsiders, with areas such as theft of identifies or breaches of secure employee data cited. In addition, 28 percent of all companies and 32 percent of large organizations reported an increase in physical external criminal activity (such as jobsite robberies and break-ins) since the economic decline began.
“As economic pressures mount on employees, it’s not surprising that illegal and unethical activities such as workplace theft increase,” says Jay Jamrog, i4cp’s SVP of research. “What’s important for employers to recognize is that this increase is likely, and while much of their attention is probably focused externally on threats to growth in their market, they better also be cognizant that business threats can originate from the inside as well.”
To address criminal activities as a result of the state of the economy, 28 percent of all companies and 38 percent of large organizations point to increased communication with employees regarding the issue. Twenty percent are conducting additional audits (25 percent in large companies), and 19 percent of companies overall are paying more attention to background checks prior to the hiring of new employees.
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